Everything is hope and faith and optimism in Viking Nation right now, and that’s fine, but there’s nothing wrong with dropping a small dose of reality into your purple Kool-Aid now and again just to keep your brain strong.
With that in mind, I offer a list of five Vikings you should probably be more worried about.
1. Matt Kalil
Two years ago it was a foregone conclusion that by year three Matt Kalil would be a top five left tackle in the NFL. Well, Kalil is now starting his third year, and he’s not even a top ten left tackle. Coming off an inconsistent, injury-plagued season, Kalil is one of the bigger question marks on the offense. If Kalil doesn’t get right physically, and re-discover the mean streak he showed in his rookie season, then this time next year, we might be talking about him as a bust. Don’t be surprised if we hear rumblings about Antonio Richardson pushing Kalil in camp. The Vikings probably want Richardson to push Kalil in camp. A little motivation never hurts, especially with a guy like Kalil who seems a tad up-and-down.
2. Xavier Rhodes
As we learned with Matt Kalil and others, we should never just take it for granted that a promising rookie will automatically progress in his second year. Sophomore slumps happen, for a variety of reasons. Xavier Rhodes has a lot of talent, and he showed development over the course of year one, but that curve could just as easily go downward as upward in his second year. We’ll see what Jerry Gray, George Edwards and Mike Zimmer can get from Rhodes. I have a little more faith in them than I did in Joe Woods, Alan Williams and Leslie Frazier.
3. Everson Griffen
Rightly or wrongly, Griffen is now one of the faces of the Vikings defense. He will be expected to have an impact. I’m not talking about sack totals, since sack totals are kind of meaningless anyway, and even more so in a system like Mike Zimmer’s. He has to have an impact that you don’t necessarily see on the stat sheet. He will be the Michael Johnson in this defense, and he has to perform at close to that level. He wanted the money, he wanted the starting snaps, now he has to go out and show that he can live up to the expectations that come with all that. There is a potential bust factor here, don’t fool yourself.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson has quickly become a fan favorite. Many fans already have him ranked among the best receivers in the league even though he’s done little yet to demonstrate that he’s earned such high regard. He did great last year on returns and designed plays that put him in position to use his great open field skills, but now he has to take the next step and become a legit all-around receiver. He has to become a consistent, dangerous downfield weapon. He has to learn to run routes, get separation, go up and get the ball the way the top receivers do it. He hasn’t proven yet that he can be the guy some envision.
5. Adrian Peterson
If you want to tick off Viking fans, just suggest that the Vikings are trying to get rid of Adrian Peterson. That’s the kind of loyalty Peterson inspires, and it’s understandable given everything he’s done for the team. He is one of the true legendary Vikings, one of the greats in franchise and league history. But – reality time – he’s 29, and he has a lot of mileage on his body. The steep downward slide is coming for Peterson, and it could be coming sooner than we think. It could even be coming this year. No one wants to face the end of Peterson as we’ve known him, but that end is looming up faster and faster. It’s just the truth, like it or not.